Culture club: Why team, excellence and respect underpin Wests Tigers’ values
Date February 27, 2016 - 2:57PM
Chief Rugby League Reporter
In coming days, all Wests Tigers players will receive a handbook.
Printed at the front of it, before the usual administrative content is detailed, is everything the club wants to stand for. Three words in particular are emphasised.
Change the only constant: coach Jason Taylor identified the need for a review at Wests Tigers.
They are the core values, arrived upon after input from across the organisation, that will underpin the club’s culture.
That word - culture - is one of the most used, and oft abused, when describing sporting organisations. But for the Tigers, it’s one they take seriously.
Coach Jason Taylor identified the need to review where the club is headed and, with the support of CEO Justin Pascoe, the pair engaged the services of Shane McCurry. A consultant, coach and facilitator, McCurry was identified as the right man to launch honest discussions about the Tigers’ direction after working with a number of corporate and sporting organisations including the NRL and AFL clubs North Melbourne and Essendon.
“The whole philosophy of work in this space is that every team and every individual can improve and get better, regardless of the current level of performance,” McCurry said.
“You can be a really high performer, a premiership team, a low performer or somewhere in between. But everyone has the ability and capacity to improve.”
For the Wests Tigers, that is certainly the case. Only a slightly superior for-and-against ratio saved them from earning the wooden spoon last year, while several off-field issues have been well documented. A need for change was identified, but it needed a collective buy-in from everyone for it to be embraced.
“Change becomes scary for those people who don’t know where that change is taking them,” Pascoe said.
“The focus on this organisation has been to create clear direction through open and transparent communication, which might not have been in existence prior.”
Rather than slapping together a few buzzwords and a mission statement, the staff and players have been fully engaged in the process of cultural change. The players themselves decided on the seven-man leadership group of Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah, James Tedesco, Sauaso Sue, Chris Lawrence, Dene Halatau and Matt Ballin in the belief they best represented, and would strive to uphold, the core values.
“You look at the history of the organisation at capture what’s great and enshrining those things,” McCurry explained.
"It’s not about ignoring history. Then you can capture what needs to change to make the future a bright one.
"A big part of this is having difficult conversations. The other is celebrating and congratulating each other when we do things well.
“We want everyone to lead in their own right and that comes back to the environment that has been created, so that everyone feels safe to lead.”
In the short time Pascoe has been at the Tigers - he was appointed in September - the former Panthers CEO has noticed a cultural shift that will continue to evolve. In an era where the salary cap puts all teams on an even playing field, he believes a superior culture will be a key differentiator in retaining or recruiting talent.
“Culture can be … an unquantifiable asset or leverage to get certain people to your organisation,” Pascoe said.
The culture at every club is unique. The Bulldogs are known as “The Family Club”, long after several influential clans have passed through Belmore. Manly has operated under a siege mentality for decades, railing against injustices real and imagined. The Sydney Swans’ “no dickheads policy” has become more than a catchphrase.
Now the Tigers are defining what they want to be.
“Culture for me is the entire environment you create and people are at the forefront of that,” McCurry said.
"It’s the standards you accept, the behaviours you celebrate, the behaviours you hold people accountable to and it’s how you enjoy each other’s company on the journey of trying to achieve success.
"You don’t just add culture. Culture also operates at an individual level, you can have a personal culture too.
“You have to spend time on defining what you want your organisation to look like. If you don’t spend time on it there’s a risk it evolves organically - sometimes that’s OK, but sometimes it can be counterproductive to what you want to achieve.”
Pascoe said having McCurry, an independent consultant without any preconceived ideas about the Tigers, would benefit the club.
“The well-publicised challenges that existing prior to me going there and the perceived challenges I thought existed here were all pretty accurate,” Pascoe said.
“That’s about being around the lower end of the life cycle when it comes to the success of the business. With that came a lot of opportunity and that certainly is the reality. Now it’s up to our collective ownership to ensure opportunity turns into reality.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/culture-club-why-team-excellence-and-respect-underpin-wests-tigers-values-20160227-gn57e7.html#ixzz41LacZkDZ
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